FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 13, 2015
CONTACT: Rebecca Toews, rebecca@ILSR.org,
Key Passages and Arguments From The FCC Decision to Remove Barriers to Municipal Networks in TN and NC
The Federal Communications Commission has released the order that allows Chattanooga and Wilson, as well as many other cities in North Carolina and Tennessee, to build, expand, and partner for improved Internet access.
This decision is not the end of the fight. We expect appeals and petitions from other cities to be filed, which follow Chattanooga and Wilson’s lead. Because of this, we isolated some of the key arguments and passages in a tip sheet below.
While the ruling extends only to communities in Tennessee and North Carolina, it stands to benefit communities all over the nation that want to reap the benefits of high-quality Internet connections at lower costs by overturning laws that create barriers to Internet networks. In fact, the order offers many clues as to how this precedent may impact restrictions in other states.
“The FCC’s order is a tremendous step forward to enabling better Internet access in North Carolina, Tennessee, and ultimately the whole country,” said Chris Mitchell, director of Community Broadband Networks at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. “As an organization that cares deeply about a proper balance of power, we believe this decision represents an appropriate tradeoff between local, state, and federal authority.”
Summarizing the Decision
The FCC has found that it has the authority to remove aspects of Tennessee and North Carolina law that limit local authority to build or expand Internet networks. In short, states retain the authority to restrict municipalities from offering service at all. However, if states allow local governments to offer services, then the FCC has the power to determine whether any limitations on how they do it are a barrier to the deployment of advanced telecommunications services per its authority in section 706 of the Telecommunications Act.
The FCC has removed a restriction in Tennessee law that prevented municipalities with fiber networks from expanding to serve their neighbors, per a petition from Chattanooga.
In North Carolina, the FCC has removed multiple aspects of a 2011 law, HB 129, that effectively outlawed municipal networks by presenting local governments with a thicket of red tape, including territorial restrictions on existing networks. The city of Wilson had petitioned the FCC for this intervention.
Key Points in the FCC Decision to Remove Barriers to Local Choice (each bullet starts with the paragraph number from the order):